Home brewing advice thread.

Discussion in 'Gearhead Garage' started by MSP, Sep 9, 2011.

  1. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    Checking back, I've ordered all my gear and it's slowly coming in. A few changes/lessons learned:

    1) As djsoulriot wisely noted, a no-rinse sanitizing solution is the only way to go. Cleaning with brewers wash/detergent and a soft cloth, and then a spritz and wipe down of sanitizer right before the brew. The wash I bought is actually rated as an indirect food additive.

    2) I switched to fermentation pales from carboys. The guys at the local brew supply shop were full of good info, and also as dlsoulriot said the pales are ideal for the short fermentation beers. Which are all I plan on brewing for the short term. We spoke of scratches and bacteria, and as long as I only clean with a soft cloth and stir with wood paddles they should last a good long time.

    3) I grabbed a few brew belts to keep things warm during fermentation. And some adhesive thermometer strips.

    4) The corny keg conversion kit is on the way. I consulted with Williams Brewing about what gear I had and what I needed, they were awesome,

    A ton of miscellaneous items. Going to brew in two 6 gallon batches at a time. Going to heat my wort and ferment in the same room to cut down on transferring things up and down the stairs. Starting with 2 corny kegs with plans to add more. And an additional fridge for cold crashing and keg storage will be the next phase.
  2. mistawiskas

    mistawiskas kik n a and takin names

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    You're doing all this in the mancave?
  3. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    There's a pretty large section of my basement that's unfinished, the furnace room as we call it. I'm going to put a utility sink and a hot plate in there. I've already built a work bench to use as a fermentation station, room for the hot plate on there.
  4. djsoulriot

    djsoulriot Junior Member

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    You're going to boil on a hot plate?
  5. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    Still exploring exactly how I'm going to heat the water. Hot plate is probably the wrong way to describe what I'm looking at, basically like a 1-2 electric cook top. Like you have in your kitchen. I've seen guys on YouTube heat their water with an electric tea kettle! They aren't boiling obviously, just mixing extract with hot water.

    EDIT: This guy's no-fuss style is where I'm currently aiming, at least initially. He does mostly extract brews, dabbling with grain.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57iwm0jc2Sc&feature=related
  6. mistawiskas

    mistawiskas kik n a and takin names

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    great, a dedicated brewery room. Sounds ideal. do you have nat gas at your home? That seems like a better alternative to electric for heating the stuff.
    There's a lot more control over the heat with gas.
  7. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    Yeah, there's gas. Didn't particularly want open flame down there though. Some of the Europeans brew using these 30l water boilers. Something like that is ideally what I'm looking for.

    http://www.tools247.co.uk/Domestic-Appliances-9101/Burco-C30sthf-30-Litre-Electric-Safety-Water-Boiler-C30STHF-BR3.html

    Or I could heat the water directly in the fermentation pales with one of these:

    http://www.amazon.com/MARSHALLTOWN-Premier-742G-Bucket-Heater/dp/B000BDB4UG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316303598&sr=8-1

    http://www.3d0g.net/brewing/heatstick

    Remember, with extract brewing you don't need to bring the wort to a boil. Although with either of these gadgets you could boil grains, some people use them for that. I know I won't be doing strictly extract brewing forever, so I'd like to build a system up front that's modular and can grow into it.

    I'm open to suggestions, Jah knows I really don't know what I'm doing! Short term it sounds like I'll be brewing on my gas burners upstairs until I can come to a solution.




  8. mattdev

    mattdev liberal crybaby

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    The brewsticks are actually meant to help get boils going on a weak stovetop range :D

    I would highly recommend a turkey fryer and outdoor/garage boiling. I realize it sucks ass in the winter, but full boils make LOADS of difference in the quality of your beer. Plus, once you get a larger setup, you can still use that old fryer.
  9. mattdev

    mattdev liberal crybaby

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    ...and sorry about the delay on photos, but I finally got my camera back. Excuse the mess, I just moved :D

    I built 90% of this stuff on my own because it is fairly easy and it makes it FAR more inexpensive. There was a lot of trial and error, but I got it dialed in pretty well at this point.

    Here's the boil kettle and hot liquor tank (for heating water).
    [​IMG]

    Inside of the boil kettle. I ended up making this filter to filter out any hop debris, trub, and whatever else makes it into my boil.
    [​IMG]

    Check all of that shit it filters out!
    [​IMG]

    The mash tun (for steeping grains). I made it so the insulation is velcro/taped on there so I can remove it easily for cleaning.
    [​IMG]

    Inside of the mash tun. I had this false bottom (separates the grains from the liquid) custom made and my efficiency is absolutely ridiculous because of it.
    [​IMG]

    Carboy-landia! The orange box actually houses my pump.
    [​IMG]

    My burner. I actually just ordered one more of these because I'm in the process of building a brew stand with wheels and built in burners so that I can hold all of this shit.
    [​IMG]

    In the last picture was my old wort chiller. I have been using a plate chiller for some time now and just haven't got around to selling the old immersion one. The plate chiller cools in probably 1/10th the amount of time, uses less water and is basically essential for 10 gallon batches.
    [​IMG]

    This is the little stirplate I built out of a cigar box, computer fan and a harddrive magnet. It's good for propagating large amounts of yeast for high alcohol beers (or just using one vial of yeast for a 10 gallon batch).
    [​IMG]

    In action!
    [​IMG]

    Miscellaneous ingredients.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Here's the fermentation chamber used for lagering/ales during the summer. I got the freezer off of craigslist for $15 and wired up a temperature controller that allows me to dial it in to the exact degree.
    [​IMG]

    As for the kegerator, we all remember the thread. I've since added this drip tray.
    [​IMG]
    MSP says thanks for this.
  10. Torx

    Torx Indigenous Nudist

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    in b4 msp blows himself up
  11. mistawiskas

    mistawiskas kik n a and takin names

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    Awesome Matt! You are really into the DIY. Bravo!
  12. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    Fantastic! Thanks Matt. So even with a extract brew it's best to boil the wort?

    I'm really looking for an electric solution so I can easily do the boil in the basement. Maybe a cooktop + heatstick in the answer. Brewing in my garage just isn't going to work out.
  13. mistawiskas

    mistawiskas kik n a and takin names

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    one of those apartment sized stoves may work out well. The downside is that you'll need to run a 30 amp 220v circuit for it. That's easy enough.
  14. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    Or how about a different tact, what would I need to safely use the propane fueled stove in my basement? I would be brewing on a concrete floor, and I've got carbon monoxide and smoke detectors directly overhead...
  15. mattdev

    mattdev liberal crybaby

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    You'll get different information about this from person to person, but I'll just post my own experience.

    I did the "late extract method", where you boil about 1/3 of your extract from the beginning to use for hop additions, and then add the remainder of it in the last 10 minutes for sanitation purposes. You can't guarantee 100% that the extract is going to be infection free, so it's best to boil it just to be sure. Plus your hop utilization will be much better when boiling it.

    Also, I have a good brewing friend who was dead set on an electric setup and brewing in his basement, but it caused so many problems that he hadn't even anticipated. First off, when you're boiling that much water, you're going to boil off about .5-1.5 gallons of liquid per hour. If you don't have proper ventilation, where does this go? He ended up building this weird ass tube that ran from the top of his boil kettle to the outdoors.

    The other thing is that basements are moist havens of bacteria. I think that until he started brewing outdoors again (or in a garage, even), almost every single batch of his beer was infected. Of course, this could have been an equipment issue but I like to blame his nasty ass basement :)
  16. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    Perhaps I need to switch gears and instead look for an easy method of transferring the wort to the basement. I would move the entire operation to the garage but it's not climate controlled, and in the winter gets below freezing for long periods.

    The way that Craig guy (in the video above) brews extract, and the way he has for 23 years, is by bringing about 2 gallons of water to a boil, adding his malt extract, dextrose, and DME, chilling it down to 100 degrees or so, and then adding hot/cold water until he gets to 5 gallons and 70-80 degrees. This is the method that (at least in the short term) I was going to try to emulate.

    I appreciate all the info guys, it's really helping me avoid pitfalls and mistakes.
  17. Octane91

    Octane91 <smartass comment> Staff Member

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    A way to really ventilate the area, a large propane burner like a turkey fryer eats up oxygen like nobody's business. do you have a way to pipe air in to the basement and pipe it out? Like windows and fans...

    You will also need to watch what you have above your burner, if its exposed joists you will need something to cover it to protect it from extra heat. My suggestion would be a fire retardant drywall like glass mat lined sheetrock; just pick where you are going to have your burner set up and put a 4x8 sheet up on the joists to protect them and any wires/pipes that might be up there.
  18. djsoulriot

    djsoulriot Junior Member

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    MSP - The pre-hopped Malt extract that Craig is using is the equivalent of buying a roll of Pillsbury cookie dough and throwing it into the oven. Without a boil, I don't know if you can even call that brewing technically.

    I don't be to turn my nose up at this kind of process. But you'll get bored with this method faaast. Either A) you'll give up on "brewing" because it's boring or B) you'll find a way to actually boil your wort. I think you need to find a way to be able to use a propane burner.

    Here's an idea. If you brew in your garage, you can get 3 gallon carboys (which when full will weigh a touch over 30lbs), and transfer your cooled down wort into those, then carry them one at a time downstairs to your basement.

    Extract brewing has a few levels within itself.
    - At the low end is what Craig is doing, with no boil whatsoever
    - Then there's a partial boil where you boil some of the wort with actual hops and dilute it with chilled water
    - Then there's a full boil with hops, extract, and the inclusion of specialty grains which can be steeped in a mesh bag

    To each their own of course, but I don't think you'll be very happy for long using the Craig method.
  19. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    Turkey fryer it is! You guys are a wealth of knowledge, thanks so much. I'll figure out how to easily get my wort downstairs later. The weight isn't a concern really, more than anything I just want to try avoid spillage.
  20. mattdev

    mattdev liberal crybaby

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    I brew everything outdoors and then transfer it to my basement for fermentation/lagering. It's really not that big of an issue. Just do everything from cooling, transferring to the carboy, pitching the yeast, etc out in your garage/yard and then cap the carboy/bucket and carry it downstairs.
  21. mattdev

    mattdev liberal crybaby

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  22. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    And it just occurred to me, I've got a really new looking 1/2 barrel in the kegerator that I could always use as you have. For the $30 deposit that would be a pretty cheap brew vessel.
  23. Octane91

    Octane91 <smartass comment> Staff Member

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    How far do you have to travel with your wort to get it from the garage to the room in the basement? How many stairs?
  24. MSP

    MSP Haunting a dead forum...

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    It's a normal flight of stairs, 7 steps or so. I even considered a dumb waiter, which just goes to show how crazy I am! :eek:
  25. Octane91

    Octane91 <smartass comment> Staff Member

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    What about a sheet of wood like finished plywood or finished particle board, that you lay on the stairs and then have a little shelf built on it to keep the bucket/carboy/keg/whatever level and then you slowly slide it down the stairs. When you're done transporting just pick it up and put it in the beer room.